An Argument for Mind

By Kalyanam, Chandran | American Journal of Psychotherapy, January 1, 2007 | Go to article overview

An Argument for Mind


Kalyanam, Chandran, American Journal of Psychotherapy


JEROME KAGAN: An Argument for Mind. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 2006, 304 pp., $27.50, ISBN: 0300113374

Professor Emeritus Jerome Kagan needs no introduction to students of psychology, affiliated fields, and the well-read public. His productive academic career has spanned more than four decades.

The maxim, "you cannot judge a book by its cover", is cited on page 198 of this book, and ironically, it applies to the book itself. We can think of the term "argument" as it applies to classical rhetoric or debate. Obviously, a less pleasant application can refer to a quarrel. As elaborated below, both meanings could mislead the potential reader of this graceful book.

In the book's introduction, Professor Kagan discloses how the idea for it originated. His son-in-law recommended Professor Kagan write a summary of the wide sweep in psychology that has occurred during the letter's career. Although the proposal was not initially appealing, the idea grew and eventually assumed the form of this book.

Professor Kagan, a widely published and seasoned academic writer, in this book departs from the usual pedagogical publication, though the list of citations is long and the undertaking scholarly, rendering it educational. At the same time, a wider, generally inquisitive audience, especially given the accessible writing style, may appreciate this book. This writing style is not surprising from a man who typically states, "I study children" when asked his profession (p. 88). Unlike an article in a peer-reviewed journal, this book also provides a fuller sense of the history of the field of psychology, the people involved then and now, and current views. Professor Kagan serves as the approachable host, leading the reader to learn (sometimes inadvertently) about all of the above.

At times, the book is autobiographical and personal; the disclosures illuminating and poignant. For example, the reader learns some details about Professor Kagan's family and of his motivations for pursuing graduate work in psychology. In equally descriptive and humble tones, other disclosures relate to social or professional interactions with some notable names (e.g., John Bowlby, Margaret Mead, and B. …

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